Law Offices of Mary Prevost: Prosecutorial and Judicial Misconduct Merge, But Justice is Done
Amado v. Gonzales, _F.3d_; No. 11-56420 (9th Cir. Oct. 30, 2013).
This was a state murder conviction for which the defendant got 27 years to life. It arose out of LA and involved a gang motivated killing involving the Bounty Hunter Bloods and the rival 118 East Coast Crips. One day, a group of Crips got on a bus and one of them opened up with a gun and shot up the bus full of Bloods. Result, one dead and one wounded. Amado was arrested as one of the Crips who took a gun to the scene. But only a witness named Hardy ID'd him as the guy with the gun.
The Brady violation: after trial the defense discovered Hardy: 1) had a prior conviction for robbery, 2) was currently on probation for that robbery when he testified; and 3) he was a former Blood gang banger himself with an arguable motive to testify against a Crip defendant.
John Lanahan did the appeal in State court and then filed the federal habeas on a pro bono basis in the Central District. The Superior Court had found at the motion for new trial that the DA should have turned over the evidence but found it was not material (!!!) and denied the motion
for new trial. The State Court of Appeal, Second District, Div. 1, found the evidence was material but then found the client's lawyer was not diligent in asking for it, so no Brady violation. (Huh?)
In federal court, the U.S. magistrate judge recommended IN THE SUMMER OF 2003, that the petition be granted. That recommendation sat before federal district court judge Percy Anderson in the Central District for eight and one-half years. Only after the LA Daily Journal and the LA
Times wrote about Anderson's proclivity not to adopt or reject the magistrate recommendations that recommended petitions be granted, did he finally get around to deny the petition and reject the Magistrate recommendation (in July, 2011.)
John appealed it and argued in January before Circuit Judges William Fletcher and Johnny Rawlinson and district court judge Hellerstein from SDNY. Hellerstein wrote the reversal (Rawlinson dissented). Fletcher was the deciding vote. The Opinion has some food for AEDPA mavens, but the bottom line is this travesty is corrected finally 15 years after the conviction, 8 of those years wasted when the federal district court let the proper Magistrate recommendation for relief languish in his chambers.
For his dedication, tenacity and brilliance (and delivering us a nice published Brady case), great job John!